Israel's System of Apartheid Laws

This table charts how Israel's legal system enables apartheid. It includes examples of relevant racist laws.

Apartheid is distinguished from other forms of prohibited racial discrimination by the institutionalized and oppressive character of racial discrimination involved. It is always a state-sanctioned regime of discrimination and oppression.

The system of Israeli laws enabling colonialism, Jewish domination and oppression of Palestinians

Purpose/effect of Israeli laws

 Illustrative  examples of relevant laws*

Establish the claim of Israeli sovereignty in all of pre-1948 Palestine as a matter of law;

Enable and regulate annexation of 1967 occupied Palestinian territory


 Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance, No. 29 of 5708-1948 (  September 22, 1948);

Law and Administration Ordinance, Section 11 B (June 27, 1967) adopted   for the annexation of occupied East Jerusalem;

 Legal and Administrative Matters (Regulation) Law (Consolidated   Version) (1970), explaining how Israeli laws are to be applied in East   Jerusalem; permitting claims for pre-1948 Jewish property in East   Jerusalem but not claims for pre-1948 Palestinian property in West   Jerusalem;

 Basic Law “United Jerusalem, Capital of Israel” (1980);

 Law on the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria 5777-   2017 (February 6, 2017).

Enable irreversible appropriation of Palestinian land and property by and for the “Jewish state” and the “Jewish people”

Absentees’ Property Law (1950), Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law (1950); Land Acquisition for Public Purposes Ordinance (1943, incorporated British Mandate law); Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts and Compensation) Law (1953); Keren Kayemet Le-Israel/JNF Law (1953); Covenant with Zionist Executive (1954); Basic Law: Israel Lands (1960); Israel Land Administration Law (1960); Israel Land Administration (Land Reform) Law (2009)

Grant  superior “Jewish nationality” to Israel’s Jewish population;

Define Israel as the state of the” Jewish people”; protect the “Jewish character” of the state from political and legal challenges

Law of Return (1950) and  Israeli Citizenship Law (1952): granting every Jew in Israel, the OPT and abroad,  the superior status and rights of Jewish nationals of Israel, including the rights to immigrate with their families and automatic citizenship;

World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency "Status" Law (1952); “Jewish Nation State Law” (2018);

Basic Law: the Knesset (1958), Section 7A:  providing, a.o., that Israel is a “Jewish state”, allowing exclusion from parliamentary elections of political parties that challenge this principle;

Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) limiting fundamental human rights, including the right to equality, with the proviso that these must be in conformity with the values of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”.

Confer different, always inferior, status and rights in the country to Palestinian populations

Israeli Citizenship Law (1952): Depriving (descendants of) Palestinian refugees of citizenship and all rights in their country; defining Palestinians present in Israel as “Israeli citizens” without a nationality and group rights;

Entry into Israel Law (1952) and Entry into Israel Regulations (1974): defining Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem as “permanent residents” without a legal right to stay, return or unite with family members;

Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (2003, as amended in 2007): prohibiting the grant of residency through family unification in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem with spouses and children from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and designated Arab countries;

Admissions Committees Law (2011): allows rural Jewish communities to reject Palestinians wishing to live in them, depriving Palestinians of the right to housing and access to state land.

Restrict development, enable destruction  of Palestinian homes and communities

National Planning and Building Law (1965), and associated laws pertaining to planning, zoning and construction.

Enable restriction of freedom of expression and association, freedom of movement, as well as deprivation of physical liberty and fair trial rights, of those who oppose apartheid and colonialism

State of Emergency (1948; still in force); Defense (Emergency) Regulations (1945); Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (1948); Combatting Terrorism Law (2016); Nakba Law (2011); Anti-Boycott Law (2011); Foreign Government Funding Law (2011); NGO Transparency Law (2016); Entry into Israel Law (Amendment No. 27, Denying a Visa and Residency Permit for Advocates of Boycotting Israel) of 2017

*For more detail about these and other Israeli laws, see: Adalah, “Discriminatory Laws Database”:


The relevance of this racist system of laws and jurisprudence is not limited to Israel’s internationally recognized territory because it is enforced in the entire territory under Israel’s jurisdiction or effective control, i.e. in Israel since 1948, and in the OPT since 1967. It is extended into the OPT in several ways: annexation de jure (East Jerusalem) based on laws that empower Israeli governments to extend Israel’s jurisdiction to any part of the OPT; personal application of Israeli domestic law to Jewish settlers, visitors and gradual application to the settlements in the West Bank (‘creeping annexation de facto’); and by so-called “channeling”, meaning the incorporation of elements of Israel’s civil law into the military orders directed mainly at the Palestinian population in the OPT.[1]





[1] See also: Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (2009), supra, p. 107 – 113; Dugard and Reynolds, EJIL (2013), supra, p. 904 – 909.


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